When we refuse to believe, we disdain God as a deceiver, as though the things He declares to us were not true, that He can and wants to do them for us…. A believing heart, on the other hand, honors God with the highest possible honor due Him, for it regards Him as trustworthy, as incapable of lying, as One Who certainly fulfills what He promises.
Word and faith are correlatives; the one is never without the other. If a person has faith without the Word, he believes like the Turk or the Jew; they believe that God is benevolent and good, but they are without the promise, for God will not be gracious apart from Christ. Contrariwise, whoever has the Word but no faith, for him the Word avails nothing. Therefore, both belong together, Word and faith, like marriage partners, and they must not be separated.
We who have the Word at times do not believe and trust as firmly as those who do not have the Word. This is the devil’s doing, the result of original sin which causes us to be drawn away from the Word and the truth, toward believing the lie rather. In short it is the devil’s fraud and our flesh’s deception because our natures are so corrupted by original sin. When the Word is absent, we have faith galore; but when we have the Word, it is only with great difficulty that we ward off unbelief. That’s because our flesh and our reason want to have nothing to do with the Word; they are willing to believe only what they want to believe.
Think what it would mean if we rightly and truly believed that what Christ here says to the man sick with palsy, He is saying to you and to me every day in baptism, in absolution, and in public preaching, that I must not mistakenly think that God is angry and ungracious toward me. Shouldn’t that cause me to stand on my head with joy? Wouldn’t that make everything sweet as sugar, pure as gold, sheer everlasting life? The fact that this doesn’t happen for us proves that the “old Adam” and the devil drag us away from faith and the Word…. You must have the Word, and faith must cling to the Word, never questioning it in any way. You then have everything the Word promises and which you require for support of body and soul. Those who don’t have the Word are strong in faith too, but they believe only as much as by nature they’re inclined to believe, preferring to believe a lie. That’s the way it is with the human heart ever since the devil corrupted our nature in Paradise.
If you want to have forgiveness of sin, do not try to climb into heaven, but go and be baptized, if you are not already, or, if you have been, remember the promise God has made to you in your baptism, be reconciled to your neighbor, and ask the absolution be declared unto you in Jesus’ name. Believe the Word, receive the most venerable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, so that you may be sure that such priceless treasure is meant for you to have and enjoy.
We are to seek the forgiveness of sins in the Word which is spoken by human mouth and in the Sacrament administered by men, and nowhere else.
By nature we are all palsied. The more we try to draw close to God and be reconciled with Him through our works, the farther from Him we get; and the more our hand pushes Him away, the greater becomes the trepidation in us. I must confess concerning myself that when I think I can do things very well on my own, I’m actually making things much worse, because I’m not acting in my faith. If, therefore, we want to be helped in this dilemma, we need to look away from our works and trust in Christ Who is able to help us wondrously. He says to us, “Be of good cheer, my son, your sins are forgiven you.” With such word the limbs again become strong and sound, capable of helping us to carry a load, as happened here with the palsied man whom Christ healed physically, having bestowed the forgiveness of sins upon him.
We know that the Holy Spirit does not want to carry on His work apart from the Word and Sacraments. For this reason we dare not disdain the Word and Sacraments, but we should cherish them as the very best and noblest of treasures. -- Martin Luther